The Next Dance: The story of Zach Currier’s 5 lacrosse championships and unending quest for more
“Calendars and clocks exist to measure time, but that signifies little because we all know that an hour can seem as eternity or pass in a flash, according to how we spent it.”
–Michael Ende, Author
54 years. 19,723 days. That is the combined number of years and days that Ted Williams, Karl Malone and Dan Marino, three of the greatest athletes to ever play their respective sports of baseball, basketball and football, played without winning a single championship.
So, it’s almost cruel to think of any athlete winning FIVE championships in the span of 407 “consecutive” days, let alone an athlete who just turned 26-years-old. That is how long it took 26-year-old Zach Currier to win five lacrosse championships.
On the heels of ESPN’s 10-part documentary, “The Last Dance,” which revolves around the career of Michael Jordan and the Jordan ‘phenomenon,’ I thought it was a perfect time to take a closer look at Zach — my friend and former teammate — who forces us to think about how we measure greatness.
Now, I know I had you at “The Last Dance,” and “Michael Jordan,” but I probably lost you when I included Zach in the same sentence.
Stay with me here. Sure, Zach — who was selected No. 1 overall in the Premier Lacrosse League entry draft in March by the expansion Waterdogs LC — has had similar success to Jordan, as it relates to championships, but as you saw in “The Last Dance,” it was Jordan’s sovereign competitiveness coupled with extraordinary athleticism and his ability to impact every single frame of a game that renders him incomparable. Zach Currier, who was just two-years old when MJ took his last shot for the Chicago Bulls, is positioning himself to reach an unprecedented level of greatness reserved only for #23.
The similarities between the two begin with a common theme: more than their love of winning, is their hatred for losing.
“Success is where preparation and opportunity meet.”
–Bobby Unser, 4-time Indianapolis 500 winner
As unique situations go, Zach Currier’s is exceptional, especially as a lacrosse player. The opportunity to compete for multiple championships in a single calendar year is pretty exclusive, and nothing short of impressive.
Zach, who was a two-time All-American at Princeton and a finalist for Major League Lacrosse (MLL) MVP last year, has become the poster child for multi-tasking.
A typical week for Zach looked like this:
- Monday-Thursday: Work full-time as product development engineer at Warrior
- Thursday: Drive five hours from Michigan to Peterborough for 8:00 p.m. game the same day
- Friday: Drive to Toronto and fly to location of Denver Outlaws game
- Saturday: Play in Denver Outlaws game before flying back to Toronto on Sunday
- Sunday: Fly back to Toronto, then drive three and a half hours back to Michigan.
- Monday: Back at Warrior and ready to do the grind all over again!
When you’re a professional lacrosse player playing in Major Series Lacrosse (MSL), the National Lacrosse League (NLL), the MLL and the World Lacrosse Championship, there is no offseason. And not only are the seasons back-to-back, they inevitably overlap. The grind of a professional lacrosse player is a mental gauntlet as much as it is a physical one. Add in the fact that Zach works full-time as a product development engineer at Warrior Sports, and it will make you wonder when he ever sleeps.
How can he? He’s never in one place long enough to catch some zzz’s. In a single calendar year, Zach played for four different teams — the MLL’s Denver Outlaws, the NLL’s Calgary Roughnecks, Team Canada and the MSL’s Peterborough Lakers — winning five championships.
2018 World Championship | July 12-21, 2018
Zach’s journey to winning five championships, does not begin in victory but, rather, in defeat.
Like many Canadian players, Zach grew up playing indoor lacrosse, a game that requires exceptional stick skills. An all-around, jack-of-all trades, player, Zach’s skillset and ability to play both sides of the ball made him invaluable at the Division I level and highly valuable at the professional ranks.
Proving to be one of the toughest guys in the sport, Zach’s ability to practice with a purpose, take over a game and make those around him better earned him a spot on the Canadian national team in 2018. His capacity to stay on the field and play defensive midfield was a key attribute for Team Canada, but he could also switch it up and have an impact on the first line offense. Team Canada needed a swiss army knife-type of player, and they had it in Zach.
In the 2018 World Lacrosse Championship, Canada went up 8-7 on a go-ahead goal from Mark Cockerton with 5:17 remaining. On the ensuing faceoff, Zach came up with a critical groundball, but Canada was whistled for a questionable offside violation.
Minutes later the U.S. would tie the game and eventually win it on a last second shot from Tom Schreiber.
Zach’s first shot at a championship had slipped through his grasp.
It was a loss that kindled something extraordinary in Zach, who was about to set out on a staggering run that has never been seen before, and may never be seen again, in the sport of lacrosse.
Day 1 – 2018 MLL Championship | August 18, 2018
The Denver Outlaws started the 2018 season without Zach, whose NLL season was still being played, and went 1-4, the worst start in franchise history. Once the Calgary Roughnecks’ season ended, Zach joined the Outlaws and Denver went 7-1 the rest of the season.
During this time, Zach was now travelling back and forth across the border to play Senior A box lacrosse with the Peterborough Lakers in Major Series Lacrosse.
The grind included a game ending in Ontario at 10:30 p.m., quickly hopping in a car with teammate Matt Gilray and his dad Paul to drive through the night to Maryland just to make it in time for the Outlaws shoot around at 9:00 a.m. ahead of an MLL semi-final game on August 11, 2018. Not an ideal scenario for one of your top players.
But, much like MJ, Zach was committed to being the best. And, the short rest seemingly did not have any effect on Zach, who took over the game in the third quarter, scoring three goals in a row to give Denver a 7-5 lead. The Outlaws would eventually win 15-14, with Zach recording four goals, one assist and nine groundballs.
The MLL Championship came the following week on August 18, 2018.
Nursing a hamstring injury, Zach struggled to run during the team’s shootaround. It’s not exactly Michael Jordan overcoming food poisoning in game five of the 1997 NBA Finals, but Zach overcame the physical toll his body was taking and contributed three points, four groundballs and two caused turnovers in the 16-12 win over Dallas.
We won the 2018 MLL Championship, and we did it on the back of Zach.
Day 25 – 2018 Mann Cup | September 11, 2018
During the MLL Championship run, Zach was still splitting time with the Lakers, traveling between Canada and the U.S.
The Ontario finals started just three days after the MLL Championship, so there was little time to relish in the celebration of his championship with the Outlaws. Zach had another title to win. Facing the Maple Ridge, Zach had two goals in the Lakers championship-clinching game to win the MSL Mann Cup series 4-2.
Zach Currier had now won 2 straight championships in the span of 25 days.
Day 281 – 2019 NLL Champions’ Cup | May 25, 2019
In just his second season in the NLL, Zach was named second team all-pro and nominated for NLL Transition Player of the Year for the second year in a row. He was a big reason the Roughnecks claimed their franchise’s third Champion’s Cup on May 25, 2019.
Many remember Rhys Duch’s incredible overtime goal to give Calgary the 14-13 win, and 2-0 series victory. Less remembered is Zach’s blocked shot in front of the net and ensuing groundball to give the Roughnecks the possession that set up the win.
In that game, Zach had a goal, an assist, four caused turnovers and 13 loose balls. Once again, Zach made every play that needed to be made, and the team came out on top because of it.
Zach Currier had now won 3 straight championships in the span of 281 days.
Day 390 – 2019 Mann Cup | September 11, 2019
Zach’s dominance in the sport continued in the fall of 2019 in his return with the Peterborough Lakers. During the teams’ championship game September 11, 2019, Zach recorded 4 points in 5 games for the Lakers as they defeated the Victoria Shamrocks in a 4-1 series to claim Peterborough’s third straight Mann Cup.
Once again, there was no time to celebrate a fourth straight championship as a shot at a fifth title was looming just weeks away in the World Indoor Lacrosse Championship.
Day 407 – 2019 World Indoor Cockerton Cup | September 28, 2019
Zach capped off the month of September winning the 2019 World Indoor Cockerton Cup, with Canada taking home its fifth straight gold medal.
Canada has won every World Indoor Championship since the tournament was started in 2003. So, for Zach, the biggest honor was not just winning a gold medal with Team Canada but being named to this team and receiving another chance to don the red and white.
And with that honor, came Zach’s fifth title in 407 days.
Winning five championships is an accomplishment so few athletes have ever reached over an entire career. Zach did it in just over a year’s time.
What Could Have Been | September 21, 2019
Zach came astonishingly close to winning six titles during that span.
In the final minutes of the 2019 MLL Championship game, the Bayhawks kept our Outlaws team from repeating as MLL Champions.
My Outlaws teammates, Zach included, and I took exception to some late calls. There were those who hailed Zach’s vocal displeasure for how the game ended as unprofessional. But that’s not how I regard it. What I watched, was a fierce competitor who was playing to win. You never want a game to be decided on questionable calls, let alone another championship game.
Two of the most memorable moments of that game for me, though, didn’t happen on the playing field, but before and after.
While our team had all the necessary preparation to win this championship, something special happened following Zach’s pre-game speech. His passion and devotion to this team simply radiated in that locker room when he emphasized our willingness to play for each other.
After the game, Zach gave away his gear to the young fans because he recognizes that they are the most important part of the sport.
What Makes Zach Currier a Phenomenon?
Zach will score every big goal needed, turn into a groundball machine, sacrifice his body in the crease and make countless unselfish plays. Every single move he makes is done out of necessity and to serve a purpose: do whatever it takes to win.
If I’m competing for a championship, the one player I want on the field next to me is Zach. I believe he’s the best player in the world right now. The PLL’s Waterdogs LC think so too, which is why he went #1 overall in the entry draft.
Much like Michael Jordan, Zach’s tireless work ethic and commitment is what separates him from the competition. For that, and for being one of the most selfless players in the game, I wanted to give Zach the recognition he deserves. Yet, I know that his focus isn’t on the championships he’s already won. His focus is on the championships he plans to win.
That’s what he will be thinking about when he rejoins his Calgary teammates next season.
That’s what he will be thinking about when he suits up for the Waterdogs LC for the first time.
That’s what he’ll be thinking about when he puts on a Lakers uniform again.
That’s what he’ll be thinking about when he dons Canada across his chest for another time.
Because for Zach Currier there is no “Last Dance.” There’s only the next one.
The views, information or opinions expressed in The Pro Perspective series are solely those of the individual author and do not necessarily represent those of Pro Lacrosse Talk.